Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 September 2014
To explain relatively common phenomenon of laughing during sleep and help to better define criteria for differentiating between physiological and pathological sleep-laughing.
Observational study of patients who underwent a sleep assessment in a referential tertiary health facility.
A total of ten patients exhibited sleep laughing, nine of whom had episodes associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Also, in one of the patients sleep-laughing was one of the symptoms of REM sleep Behaviour Disorder, and in another patient sleep-laughing was associated with NREM sleep arousal parasomnia.
The collected data and review of literature suggests that hypnogely in majority of the cases presents as a benign physiological phenomenon related to dreaming and REM sleep. Typically, these dreams are odd, bizarre or even unfunny for a person when awake. Nevertheless, they bring a sense of mirth and a genuine behavioural response. In a minority of cases, sleep-laughing appears to be a symptom of neurological disorders affecting the central nervous system. In these patients the behavioural substrate differs when compared to physiological laughing, and the sense of mirth is usually absent.